SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 1 MENARDS TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
YOU’VE BEEN THE FASTEST PENSKE DRIVER ON RACEDAY THE LAST TWO YEARS. WITH THE AERO KITS FROZEN SINCE LAST YEAR, DOES THAT MEAN YOU’VE HAD LESS TO DO THIS YEAR? “I don’t know. The car is pretty much the same from the last two years. We didn’t feel like changing was going to make me feel better. We’ve actually tried a few things and every time it is worse. So we went back on track really quickly and worked mostly aerodynamics. We’re learning every year on the body kits. We are working on finding less drag and still keeping downforce on the car. The mechanical setup hasn’t changed at all so I’m quite comfortable that way. I know exactly how my race car stands, and that gives me confidence."
SO DO ALL YOUR TEAMMATES COPY YOU? “No, no. We are not running exactly the same. It’s mostly comfort. Will (Power) might like a car that rides on the right-rear more. I like something that drives off the front more with a more powerful front than he does. It’s just feel and whatever you makes you comfortable."
IS A MONTH LIKE THIS REALLY TESTING THE TEAM AS A WHOLE, PARTICULARLY LOOKING FOR SPEED AND SOMETHING CONSISTENT? “It’s testing patience! It’s interesting. Sometimes you have a more competitive package and sometimes you don’t. This month we’ve been on the slower side, I would say. We’ve worked really hard. It’s been fun. With all five drivers here, it’s been interesting to work all together to find more out of the car. I felt like Monday, especially with the new Chevy engine and a new update we had, I felt like the car was capable of winning the race. I feel better. We don’t have the outright pace still but we have everything else to win the race."
IS PATIENCE PRIORITY NUMBER ONE? TO GET TO THAT LAST STOP AND BE IN IT? “We all know that you have to go to Lap 170 to even have a chance to think about winning. If you are winning before that, it doesn’t matter. If you are fifth, it doesn’t matter. As long as you position yourself and get ready for that last shootout, that’s the most important thing. It’s not the ideal start going off 23rd but we will try to get the best out of it.
“We have a really good race car. We don’t have the outright speed of the Hondas. But we do have everything else we need like our crew… pit stops are very important here, and they count. On strategy, for me Kyle Moyer has been excellent all year long. My engineer has been awesome with adjustments on the car, too. I think I have everything else to win the race. We may not have the outright speed, and that’s the nature of competition and the beauty of it. Some years it’s going to be your package that is best and some years it is not. Now we have to fight that way and try to win the race. I think we can come back to the top-10 very quickly. We saw that Monday and felt like I had a good car going through the pack, which was a very good sign. It felt comfortable, I could be aggressive and go forward. We will at least be fighting for the top-five."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 HUM BY VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
IT’S YOUR FIRST RUN HERE WITH TEAM PENSKE. HOW DO YOU FEEL? “I feel pretty good leading into the weekend. I’m excited for tomorrow. We need Carb Day. That should help us find a final solution for us to gear us up nicely for the 500 miles that we have to put down on Sunday. It’s all about being there at the end. We’re close to finishing this things off and it will be fun to get going."
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GET OUT OF YOUR TEAMMATES? “It’s great having a lot of good teammates. I’ve been able to ask them a lot of questions. And vice versa. When I’m good, I help them. And when they’re good, they help me. That’s what you get here at Team Penske. There’s been no shortage of information to share. That’s been nice. Picking the brains of Helio, Juan, Will and Simon is always a good thing."
HOW DIFFERENT IS LIFE ON THE ROAD NOW THAT YOU ARE WITH PENSKE? “It’s not too different. I live in Charlotte now, but it’s always nice to come back to Indianapolis having moved away from here."
HAVE YOU FELT THAT THERE IS A PARTICULAR ADVANTAGE THAT CHEVY HAS OVER HONDA IN ANY CERTAIN AREA? “I think Chevy has a lot of good qualities. We’ve had good reliability and good consistency. You want to know what you have. We’re very confident in what they bring us. We have a great working environment with them; that hasn’t changed. That relationship has always been very stout. That’s not changed from Day One. We have a lot of positives to think about. That’s not to say that Honda won’t be tough. Their performance level is tough. But I’m confident in what Chevy has given us. It’s a long race and you have to be there in the end. We should have good fuel economy. We should be able to execute well on a couple of different levels that will help us."
DO WHAT APPEARED TO BE STRUGGLES IN QUALIFYING KIND OF IRRELEVANT FOR RACEDAY? “I think so. They are two separate things. Where it looked like we were in qualifying doesn’t necessarily how we will be in the race. I expect us to be better in race conditions. I think we can outlast everyone in the strategy game. Penske has been for many years, and I feel strong about our chances when you look at it that way."
ARE THERE STILL MANY THINGS YOU NEED TO WORK THROUGH ON CARB DAY? “Hopefully not too many but there are definitely things on my list. There are things I want to work on personally that I want to be better at. We got through a lot of that Monday, but we’ll definitely utilize Carb Day as much as we can to get that final read and maybe make some more adjustments after that."
HOW MANY TEAMS AND DRIVERS REALISTICALLY HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN? “It the Indy 500, so any car can win. I’d put it up around 28-30 cars. You can’t predict this place. Sometimes the prediction wins but many other times that isn’t the case. We feel confident it’s a race you can win from many different angles. That’s a good thing for us."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 SHELL FUEL REWADS TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
YOU HAD THE AERO PACKAGE NAILED IN PHOENIX WITH THE POLE, AND THE PENSKE CARS WERE SOLID. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE HERE NOT HAVING THE NORMAL AERO PACKAGE? “The good news is we ran these last year; it’s a package where we have a lot of information. Plus we have five cars. Whoever wants to do something and however the race develops, you can get information for the following stint. The whole thing, we know what to do and we just have to execute."
IT’S A BIG DIFFERENCE IN THAT DOMINANCE… “When you have the road course wings versus the speedway wings, it completely changes the balance. The speeds as well… we were 180 mph there and here we are 230 mph. The dynamic in the cars changed a lot."
IS THAT SOMETHING WE WILL SEE THROUGH THE SEASON WHERE THE DYNAMICS WILL SWING BACK AND FORTH? “It’s natural when you change that configuration. At Phoenix, for example, we dialed in the track and were pretty darn good. Here, we feel like we have one of the best balanced cars but you have a little bit more power to be up front."
ARE YOU CONCERNED STARTING MIDPACK WITH THE TRAFFIC? “I’m anxious, I would say, and not concerned. Things can happen outside my control. I hope everyone understands that to finish first, first you must finish. Hopefully everyone has the same mindset, pay extra attention and don’t rely on just the spotter, then we can get through without a problem."
WHEN YOU’RE HERE DO YOU THINK ABOUT GOING FOR THAT FOURTH WIN, OR DO YOU FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND? “I dream every day. Every time I look, I think it would be great to be part of that elite group with Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr."
DO THE PENSKE CARS HAVE THE RACE PACE TO CONTEND? “I know we have. You don’t win the race on just the fastest car. You win a race by being consistent and having good strategy and a good team. We have all that."
HAVING WON THE RACE THREE TIMES BEFORE, WHAT’S THE MOST CRUCIAL PART? “Things have to line up together for the possibility to win. You have to put yourself in that position as well. Even when I’ve done that before, I haven’t won. Everything has to run smooth. Sometimes the track picks the winner and it’s outside your control sometimes."
TALKING TO YOUR SPOTTER, RICK MEARS, HE NOTED THAT THE TWO OF YOU HAVE A SIMILAR STYLE. HE GREW UP WITHOUT A SPOTTER AND YOU’RE KIND OF THE SAME WAY. “Both of us understand that to survive, you can rely on only one person. You’re the one driving the car. Rick is one of the best. This year we have a gold helmet so he can’t miss me! The point is that I can’t only rely on his ability to tell me who is there or not, I need to understand what is going on to prevent any bad circumstances."
WHAT WOULD BE UNIQUE ABOUT WINNING THE 101ST INDY 500? “Being a fighter. We are going to fight as hard as we can. We have a lot of challenges in front of us, but we have a lot of heart too. This team is the best when they are in a pressure situation, and I feel we are going to succeed."
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
YOU’RE USED TO STARTING ON THE FRONT ROW BUT FURTHER BACK THIS YEAR. DOES PACING CHANGE? “It is different from having started on the front row. It’s always good to start at the front to keep out of the mess. But you get some good experience in traffic provided you move forward. If you have a good start, you can move forward. It is what it is, and I’ll do what I can."
DOES IT GET TO A PLACE WHERE YOU HAVE SO MANY PIT STOPS AT ABOUT THE TIME YOU SETTLE IN ON A FUEL RUN, HOW DOES THAT CHANGE STRATEGY? “You can adjust the car if you need. Over the whole of a stint the entire car changes, the tire change, the track changes… you’ll get your mix of balances through there anyway."
HOW DOES THE PROSPECT OF A CLOUDY START CHANGE YOUR MINDSET? “It means that the car will feel really good at first. When the sun comes out, we’ll find who has a good or bad car. We really want the sun to come out. I really hope it does…we need it. We’ve had the full mix this month so you have a full understanding that the cloud cover helps the car a lot."
WHAT ARE YOU HAVING TO DO DIFFERENTLY ON THE CAR THIS YEAR TO MAKE IT WORK FOR THE RACE? “We definitely have a different car. There’s always a combination of mechanical balance and aero balance. I think we’ve skewed that in a different direction to make the car more comfortable. It’s an ever-changing goalpost. Wind changes, track temperature changes and all that make a difference. You have to make it a very adjustable car in the race. You have to put yourself in a box where you can go either way with it."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE WITH THE CHEVROLET THAT YOU HAVE A BETTER RACE MOTOR? “I think so. We have very good reliability. That’s what Chevy has been the last few years. Right now I think we can push our engine harder for longer than Honda."
WHERE DO YOU THINK THINGS STAND NOW HEADING INTO THE RACE? “I think we have good race cars at Team Penske. We can push ahead harder for longer than Honda. At Indy, you never know what it is going to throw at you."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 22 FITZGERALD GLIDER KITS TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
HAVE YOU BEEN ENJOYING FAMILY LIFE NOW THAT YOU HAVE MORE TIME AT HOME? “I still do the same thing as before. I still train and spend time on the bike. I still swim from time to time. But there’s time now for us to spend on the boat, surf, we do wake boarding together. It’s good family time. I have more time for my radio-controlled planes. They’re fun but I really spend time on it. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. I’m really intense at it, and I think that’s why I’m good at this."
YOU QUALIFIED PRETTY HIGH UP IN THE PENSKE TEAM. “For our speed normally against our teammates, it was nice. We had good speed and it felt pretty good. I felt my car had as good speed as Will but I got a bad draw. The grip level from my first lap to the fourth lap was getting better instead of worse because the track was cleaning up. I was handing that to everyone else. There wasn’t a big chance at pole."
BUT THAT SHOULD BODE WELL FOR RACEDAY? “I think so. We have a good opportunity. You still have to execute and see what happens. But I think we are in good shape."
YOU’VE RUN THIS RACE FOUR TIMES BEFORE. WHAT’S THE SECRET TO BEING UP FRONT? “There is no secret. That’s the secret. You have to execute well on raceday. Everyone needs to do their part. As long as everyone does their part and give yourself a chance, that’s all you can ask for. I try not to overthink it. We do what we need to do and hope that’s enough to get the trophy. You have to deal with whatever hand is dealt to you."
SPENCER PIGOT, NO. 11 JUNCOS RACING CHEVROLET:
YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR STARTING POSITION: “Obviously the starting position isn’t fantastic. We’re toward the back but it’s a long race and anything can happen. We have one more practice session tomorrow to try and figure some stuff out. The car felt really good last week but we struggled a little bit on Monday. Hopefully we found a few things that weren’t really working in our favor, so hopefully with those things fixed we should be back to where we were."
DOES ANY PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE HERE HELP? “It’s nice to come back this year and not have as many questions about the race and how it feels running in traffic with all the cars out there. I have a lot of experience to choose from in my mind. It’s definitely been beneficial so far this month getting up to speed with a group running faster and all that that I didn’t have last year. So it’s nice to have a year’s experience but there is still a lot of hard work to do."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PROGRAM RICARDO JUNCO HAS PUT TOGETHER? “It’s great that Ricardo has been able to put an IndyCar team together. That’s what he has been working toward for many years. To finally have it come together and be a part of it is something very special for us and something we would have thought was absolutely crazy 10-12 years ago when we were racing go-karts together. It’s been really neat so far, and I think we’ve and I think we’ve all enjoyed the experience. We’re all excited and getting ready for the big race."
SEBASTIAN SAAVDERA, NO. 17 AFS/JUNCOS RACING CHEVROLET:
HOW HAS THIS ENGINEERING GROUP, BEING A BRAMD NEW TEAM, FARED WITH SOME OF THE OTHERS YOU’RE MORE FAMILIAR WITH? “It’s a small team that didn’t have a lot of preparation. Being with Andretti, Ganassi and KV, they basically had everything set up to approach the month. Right now, we’re looking at smaller things, such as trying to get drag out of the car, drag out of the gearbox, drag out of the paint – things that in the past I never had to worry about because it already was done for us. So when you start getting to that extent, you realize how sensitive this place is an d how multiple years of expertise these big teams have really comes into play."
GARY PETERSON IS A LONG-TIME SUPPORTER OF YOURS. YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT HE’S BEEN ABLE TO DO TO HELP YOU RETURN TO THE INDY 500 WITH THIS NEW TEAM? “It’s huge. To come back here again with Gary Peterson and the whole AFS organization, and already having more of an active role as vice president of sports development, is big. Last year was a wise decision not to do the 500, even though it was the 100th running and it hurt, it didn’t make sense. We’re not here just to race. We want to develop something for many years to come, and I think that’s where Gary feels it’s going this year."
WHAT’S THE PLAN AFTER THIS? WHAT THINGS ARE IN THE WORKS? “ I’m doing some commentating with ESPN Desportes in Latin America, but on my sports side I want to do more. Right now, it doesn’t make sense to invest in one of the road course aero kits because they’ll be obsolete next year. We do have a state-of-the-art oval aero kit, so it would not be surprising that we did more oval racing this year."
IF JUNCOS RACING GOES FULL TIME WITH TWO CARS NEXT YEAR, ARE YOU PUTTING IN A BID FOR THAT WITH HOW YOU DO ON SUNDAY? “ It’s too early to tell; we’ll see how things continue to evolve. I’m very happy with the amazing job Juncos has done in such a short amount of time. I just want to keep growing on this side. I love the development side. I come from both sides now – having everything and developing now. It will be a challenge and I’m welcoming it."
ED CARPENTER, NO. 20 FUZZY’S VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET:
DO YOU GET MUCH SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE THE RACE? “What I hope for is that I sleep until the (track opens at 6 a.m.). The first time I wake up then I’m looking outside to see what the weather is like, look at the flags to see which way the wind is blowing and my mind gets going. Hopefully, I’ll sleep."
STARTING ON THE FRONT ROW IS JUST THE BEGINNING, RIGHT? “It’s a 500-mile race. As long as I’ve been around here, you see people win the race a ton of different ways. You see people lose the race even more different ways. Being smart, staying in the right position, avoiding trouble, controlling the things you can control are all key. But that isn’t always enough. We’ll try to execute, put ourselves in the best position and try to make good decisions as the race unfolds, and hopefully we’ll be there at the end."
SOME OF YOUR COMPETITORS HAVE SAID THAT SINCE 2012 IT FEELS MORE LIKE A PACK RACE AND YOU JUST NEED TO BE IN THAT LEAD PACK TO GIVE YOURSELF A CHANCE AT THE END? “The racing certainly changed with this generation car. I think some of the guys don’t know what pack racing is, No. 1. This isn’t a pack race; it’s a close race. One thing that hasn’t changed over the history of this race is you have to be with the leaders, the lead group, to be able to win it. It’s not Daytona or Talladega where someone is going to come from 15th at the end to win it in the closing laps unless it’s a unique situation like fuel mileage or something. Certainly you need to be in the top three, top five."
WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM YOUR TEAM AND YOURSELF TO BE IN THAT PLACE AT THE END? “I think we have all the pieces to be there. We have the car. It’s comes down to execution, making good decisions and not making mistakes on track and the guys having clean pit stops. If we can do that, I expect we’ll be in the mix to win the race.
HOW MUCH OF A LIFT IS IT BEING A LOCAL GUY AND HAVING LOTS OF FANS LOOKING AT YOU? “It makes it fun when I get out of the car. When I’m in the car I’m focused on one thing and that’s the car and what’s in front of me. There’s really not much room to think about anything else. To be embraced after a good day or bad day, I really appreciate the community here."
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF ED CARPENTER RACING? “ The next step we would take if it was there – adding a third car. I think one thing we’ve always done a good job at is not doing any more than we could do or have the resources for. That’s why we’re running two cars here instead of three this month just to make sure we can do things the way we want to do it. We’ll stick to that recipe because I think it’s worked well for us."
JR HILDEBRAND, NO. 21 PREFERRED FREEZER SERVICES ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET:
DO YOU HAVE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL TO IMPROVE THE CAR THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
“It’s all built in. There are situations where you have different settings in the car that you can change – like fuel saving maps on the rotary switches. It’s not like you get a shot of nitro, but there are definitely some games that can be played should they work out. We obviously have a lot of faith in the guys at Ilmor and what Chevy has done. Everybody is on a new spec motor coming into the weekend so there is some uncertainty how everything will stack up, but we certainly expect to be racy on Sunday."
HOW MUCH CAN YOU LEARN WITH ONE HOUR OF RUNNING ON CARB DAY?
“You don’t have enough time to do high-level on-track research. Everybody leaves Monday with a couple of little things that they hope will make the car just a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable and give you confidence to do X, Y or Z, whether that’s running in traffic, running on your own, or at the end of a stint. Even my rookie year I think guys went out and ran 10 laps and did a bunch of pit stop practice and that was it. You’ll have the whole field out there in a big train trying to get the last little bit out of it. For us, where we qualified and how good we feel with the car the way it is now, it’s just trying to identify a couple little things that hopefully can give us a slight extra bit of performance Sunday."
“IF THE WEATHER IS CLOUDY AND COOL, WILL THAT HELP RUNNING ON CARB DAY?
“We will tend to choose to work on things that are independent of the weather playing a role. The data these days is so good as far as adjusting for ambient conditions, how much downforce you run on the car and that sort of thing. It’s pretty easy for the teams to say, OK, you ran these wing angles on Friday but it’s going to be 10 degrees hotter on race day. There is a correlation that they can follow that they can choose where to be. It won’t play a huge role, but the more similar the conditions are the better the feel for the drivers."
ARE YOU STILL INVOLVED WITH STANFORD’S ENGINEERING PROGRAM?
“Yes, but way less involved this year. My role was very flexible. It was as much me being there as a resident expert once a month to discuss, or give feedback, or go drive a car to create high-performing human data basically. I made a day trip there earlier in the month. It’s a cool gig, for sure."
AN INTERVIEW WITH BUDD LAZIER, NO. 44 LAZIER RACING CHEVROLET:
WHEN OTHER DRIVERS WENT TO NASCAR OR FORMULA ONE, YOU WERE THE MAINSTAY. HOW MUCH PRIDE IS THERE IN THAT FOR YOU? “I think it’s lost sometimes that I also was the 2000 champion, and I should have won the 500 that year. (Juan Pablo) Montoya beat me by a tick, and we were quicker, too. After winning the race, you swear that you’ll be back there a lot. It’s really amazing, this place, how much has to go right to get back into Victory Lane. It’s when you run and you finish second like I did twice that haunt you and you don’t forget about. I can’t tell you how special this place is. There’s no racetrack that you’re in the corner for such a long time. You’re sustaining cornering here more and longer than anywhere in the world because it’s so flat and so fast that it really tests driver and machine. Back in those days, to me it was an easy decision. I had the option to go to Michigan (International Speedway) or be here at Indianapolis, and it was a no-brainer. IndyCar goes the way the Indy 500 goes. I had been running a 2-or 3-year-old race car and was going the corners as quick as the top two or three guys and I go onto the straightaway at Long Beach or some of those places trimmed, so in 1996 I knew I had a car that could win races. The super teams will still have an advantage, but a small team gets it all right and can win the race. That makes it exciting for the fans and competitors."
WOULD YOU ENJOY RACING YOUR SON, FLYNN, HERE AT INDIANAPOLIS?
“As a driver, I think he is very gifted. It’s not necessarily the career I would have chosen for him, bug before you know it it’s sort of in the blood. I expect him to move up through the ranks as quickly as he is able to do so depending on sponsorship. It makes sense that we’re building an IndyCar effort for the future and he’s a driver for the future. I look at some of the other owner/drivers who have done that sort of thing, and I think the Rahals are one of the best examples. It’s nice to have options. It’s not ideal to run for your father or grandfather, but at the same time it’s nice to have options. It’s a potential opportunity for him and us in the future. We want to provide him the very best of what we can provide, so our team would have to grow to do that. I know his mother and I always thought that it would be cool if we raced together. I would enjoy that. I’m not entirely sure how much time I have left in terms of years, but I’m not there yet."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR PLACE IN HISTORY AT THE SPEEDWAY?
“I don’t think a lot about that, but it is a little staggering that there have been 100 Indy 500s and I have taken part in 20 of those. And there were another five that for various reasons we got left out. I take pride in that. A few seconds less and I would be a three-time winner."
CONOR DALY, NO. 4 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO LEARN FROM AJ THIS YEAR? NO TIPS OR TRICKS UP HIS SLEEVE? “Not really. There isn’t really much he can say any more. We’re just driving. The driving part is not really the big part anymore. It’s getting the car to where you need it to be. It’s all about the car. If the car isn’t there, you’re not going to be able to do 230.5 mph. And he realizes that it’s so much about the technical side that there is so much we can do."
DO YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA PRESSURE DRIVING FOR AJ? “It would be cooler to win for AJ than anyone else. It would be awesome to win here in general but to win for AJ would be incredibly awesome.
THE RACE IS OBVIOUSLY VERY DIFFERENT THAN IN QUALIFYING. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE RACE WILL HOLD? “We’re hoping of the best. We had a good car Monday and we’re hoping for a good car in the race. We’re not sure how it’s going to play out for everyone. There are a lot of interesting factors come the race. There’s a lot up in the air. We have to do the best we can and go in there with a strong strategy. You never know what’s going to happen. The Penskes are starting right in front of us so they’ll obviously be going forward. There’s a lot to be gained. We have a good plan and strategy. Our car is improving and we just need to keep that momentum rolling."
CARLOS MUNOZ, NO. 14 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
TALK ABOUT BEING THERE WITH A CHANCE IN THE LAST 50 LAPS. “It doesn’t matter where you run in the race. If you’re in front at the last pit stop, that’s where you need to be. Over the past few years, the fastest guy hasn’t necessarily won – like Juan (Pablo Montoya), Ryan (Hunter Reay) and even Tony (Kanaan) when he won. Even last year, (Alexander) Rossi was pretty good the whole month but wasn’t necessarily the fastest guy that day.
HAVE YOU BEEN HELPING GUIDE THE TEAM BECAUSE OF HOW FAST YOU HAVE BEEN HERE THE LAST FEW YEARS? “I know what we need to do to go fast. It’s not like I’m an engineer and can say we are going to use these dampers, this inertia… I know what it feels like to have a good car underneath me. You can say that we need more grip. And they know what we need to go quicker. But I think I’ve brought some good ideas like how to better prepare a car for the Indy 500 and how the race prep has been done before. If you arrive quick, you’re going to be quick for the month. If we arrive slow, you’re likely going to be slow for the whole month. So for the future we know we need to arrive with a quick car."
SO THE EIGHT DAYS OF PRACTICE HASN’T HELPED YOU LEARN THE SPEEDWAY KIT MORE? “It’s helped to make the car a little better. The thing about the 500 is that every day is different. One day you feel really good and another day you feel so bad. So it’s easy to lose yourself. That’s the Indy 500.
ZACH VEACH, NO. 40 INDY WOMEN IN TECH CHAMPIONSHIP AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THE FIRST TIME DRIVING 500 MILES, WHICH IS THE LONGEST RACE YOU’VE EVER COMPETED IN?
“You prepare for it just as you would any other race, though it is longer and higher in significance than the Freedom 100. We just want to make sure we’re patient. To be able to win this race you have to be there at the end. As everyone who has done this race multiple times tells me, it’s all about being patient. If you find yourself making good calls in the car, you have fairly good balance and have good pit stops, it’s not out of the question to find yourself in the top 10 at the end of the day. We just want to make sure we do everything we can to finish the best we can, and if we find ourselves in the position to go for it at the end we certainly will.
YOU’VE WORKED SO HARD OVER THE YEAR TO BE HERE. HAS IT HIT YOU THAT YOU’RE HERE?:
Is it going to hit, yes. Driver introductions. When we walk out there and see the stands filled with people, you realize you’re one of 33 that are going to be going for 500 miles. It’s pretty special. The one thing that has hit me already more than anything else is that there is going to come a point where the car is fired up and hopefully won’t be shut off for three hours. That’s 500 miles of battle. For me, it’s pretty special to think that me and this machine are going to go on a 500-mile ride together and so much can happen in those 500 miles.
THE SIGNIFICANCE, TO YOU, OF RACING FOR AJ FOYT RACING?
So many people there are incredible at what they do. My engineer, Andy Brown, has won the 500 four times. He’s gotten to work with Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon. For me, that’s pretty special. Just taking from all their experience is allowing me to do a better job. Some things have happened the past week that have been out of our control, but as Andy has said we just keep working as the days go by and I’m certain we’ll have a good Chevy that we can find ourselves up front.
GABBY CHAVES, NO. 88 HARDING RACING CHEVROLET:
WITH BEING AS PART OF A NEW ENTITY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE A DEVELOPMENT DRIVER TO HELP OUT THINGS GETTING STARTED. “It’s a great job for me. I get to have the first say on what I want out of the car. For a young driver to be able to build a team around, it’s a really good spot and situation to be in. It doesn’t go without its drawbacks like no teammate or data to work from. But as far as my development and career progression, I think it’s a great time."
WORKING WITH AL UNSER JR… YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? “It’s been great. We’ve had really good chemistry together in practice and qualifying. We’ve done a good job helping each other out and helping the team to get the car to go faster. I can only hope we continue this relationship moving on to the future."
ON THE ENGINE SIDE, HOW DO YOU THINK THE CHEVY ENGINE WILL BE FOR THE RACE? “It’s a 500-mile race. While we certainly feel there is a slight power disadvantage, it’s not massive. We are in a position where we can run full power the whole way and be comfortable with that. We know what we’ve got. We’re going to focus on making our good racecar as good as it can be. Hopefully I can make the difference."